Council OKs car, cell phone for LaFontaine
The East Carbon City Council convened for the first time Tuesday night since deciding to address Mayor Orlando LaFontaine's absence from city meetings. And while his status with the city was not discussed during open session, officials did return from a closed meeting to offer the mayor a city paid cell phone and vehicle for use on city business.
"The mayor approached the council and asked for the tools to do his job," said council member David Maggio, who broached the subject of LaFontaine's absence during the body's previous session. "I don't think anyone would argue that Orlando did a fantastic job during his first term. If he is willing to do the work needed, he should have the tools."
According to Maggio, LaFontaine was cautioned about personal use of the vehicle.
"I don't have any problem with somebody stopping to buy milk when driving a city car. However, if they drove to Price from East Carbon just to go shopping that is an issue and we can't have that," he said. "We need to move past this because the city has a lot on its plate and we need a mayor."
Maggio had taken issue with the amount of time he had spent as Mayor pro-tem, explaining that the position ties a person's hands when carried out for an extended period of time.
"You can't run a city as captain," he explained Wednesday via telephone. "You need a general and only the mayor holds that authority. What the situation boils down to is this: if our mayor is ready and willing to do his duty we should allow him to do it."
While the council did not ask about LaFontaine's absences in open session, the mayor did address the forum, directing his comments toward Maggio.
"The first thing that happened was my cell phone was taken, so I apologize that no one has been able to contact me. I apologize for that Mr. Maggio," he said. "But at certain times it seems that everybody is able to contact me on my personal phone. Also, I don't have a city vehicle. Before, the reason we were getting all the grant money was because I was at every meeting. I was everywhere there was a chance to get money. You were there with me Mr. Maggio when we got hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants. It hasn't been done since then."
The mayor continued, discussing city spending.
"I also apologize for the fact that I can't come to city hall and twiddle my thumbs," he continued. "Our budget was reduced here to $25 a day. You can't even fill you car with gas much less run a city on $25 a day. It's very hard to get the job done and be here. I'm a man of my action and I will not come to these meetings with nothing to show and nothing to do. You can take my $400 away but I hope that you take the measurements to put the city back on track. Because when we had a budget here we were in the black. Since it was changed to $25 we're in the red $7-, $8-, $900,000."
While the council members did not address this statement initially, it was made clear to LaFontaine later in the session that the council had changed its spending ordinance to allow for $300 of purchase power without prior council approval.
Following his address, the city reviewed several vital issues ranging from a change in their inter-local agreement with Sunnyside to the selection of an engineering firm for their upcoming cemetery project.
"I felt really good about what came out of our meeting last night," said council member Barbara Robinett, via a phone interview on Wednesday. "We set up some guidelines and planned several work meetings. By the end of our session it was clear that both the mayor and the council are ready to focus on the betterment of East Carbon City."